One Student Government Association senator is going to lobby for a student issue at the national level.
Bowling Green junior Poorvie Patel is going to Washington, D.C., on April 21-25 to lobby for the Collegiate Housing and Infrastructure Act (CHIA). If passed, the bill would make donations toward not-for-profit housing tax deductible. SGA passed a resolution at Tuesday night’s meeting in support of this act.
Not-for-profit housing refers to student housing entities that are not owned by WKU, such as Greek organizations or the Baptist Campus Ministry.
“Currently, as far as how the tax code exists, when donors donate to not-for-profit housing, they don’t get a tax exemption,” Patel said. “This is hindering a lot of donors from donating money, like, large sums of money, to not-for-profit housing because they’re not getting anything back for it.”
Patel said she thinks making donations tax deductible will encourage people to donate more often.
“That’s going to make a huge difference in someone donating or not donating,” Patel said. “And it’s just so vital that we get donations because houses… are not well equipped at all. I mean, no fire alarms, no smoke detectors, no sprinklers. And that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
At WKU alone, Patel said there are 19 Greek houses, and only five have sprinkler systems because installing them is so expensive.
While WKU has the WKU Foundation, which is set up to allow donations to anything to receive tax exemptions, most schools do not have that.
However, Patel said donating to not-for-profit housing is still a problem at WKU because many people don’t know about that foundation.
Patel got involved with CHIA and the trip to Washington, D.C., through the headquarters of her sorority, Alpha Omicron Pi, which is paying for her trip. Any students in Greek organizations had the opportunity to apply for the trip.
Micah Fielden, University of Kentucky student body president, is the other Kentucky representative Patel will be working with in Washington, D.C. He is also representing his Greek organization, Delta Sigma Phi fraternity.
“It will help our cause in Greek institutions if we’re able to show that contributions will be considered charitable essentially,” Fielden said. “I think it can help Greek housing across the nation honestly…at UK, at Western. So, I think it’s a no-brainer that we should support it.”
Fielden said UK’s SGA will possibly pass a resolution in support of the act, but he’s going to lobby for CHIA as a Greek representative rather than a student body president.
Fielden doesn’t think passing this bill will automatically fix everything. He said he thinks it will be a small start on a long journey.
Patel said she, along with Fielden, plan to talk to both Kentucky senators and all six representatives.
Their meetings with the legislators will be set up through the lobbying firm Patton Boggs.
Kevin O’Neill, a partner at Patton Boggs, said the firm has represented sororities and fraternities pro bono for about 12 years now.
O’Neill said the students applied and their national organizations helped identify which ones would be appropriate. Then the firm worked with them to select from that pool. Out of 500 or 600 applicants nationwide, 90 students were chosen.
“We are training them to go to the hill to lobby on issues of college affordability, the Collegiate Housing and Infrastructure Act, other things of interest to college students, so we’re getting them ready for that, helping them set up the meetings and then helping them execute those meetings,” O’Neill said.
O’Neill said this bill is important because some college fraternities and sororities are the second leading provider of student housing outside of the host institution themselves.
Fielden and Patel will work together as a team, and Patel said it will be their job to sell legislators a “pitch” about CHIA.
“We have to tell them why they should support it,” Patel said.